Tuesday, March 27, 2012

RAOK #33 - Picture this...with your tongue out.

I'm going to be in SO MUCH trouble when this post goes up!  Ah, what the heck though right? My family is so adorable... and sort of .. weird.  In a good way though.  If that's possible.  Anyway, they seem to have a thing for sticking out their tongues or making goofy faces when I take their pictures.  They're going up on the www with their tongues out and I say that serves them right for always being annoyed that I want to take their picture.

Despite their annoyance and reluctance, I know that someday they will be thankful that I was that freak-o mom who always had a camera with her.  I am already glad!  When I have gone to scrapbook all these moments we had together, I am SO aware of how much I would have forgotten if I hadn't captured it on film (first) or digitally.

Pretty much everyone has a camera these days. (Admit it, even if you don't carry a camera you probably have one on your phone!).  HOWEVER, what I have found to be true is that hardly anyone ever sends their pictures off to the relatives so they can enjoy them too.  Poor grandma and grandpa!

RAOK #33 is something I did for a family member and you can easily do too.  It will really add to the quality of life for your poor loved ones who never get to see pictures of your kids sticking out their tongues!  (Oh, sorry.  That was just me, wasn't it?)

Load those digital pictures up to an online site like Walgreens or Walmart then do a search for the zip code of your loved one.  Find the nearest location, then put grandma's name and address on the order.  You can be really nice and pay for it with a credit card but you don't have to.  Unless it is a huge order, they can pay for it when they pick it up!  It's sssssssoooooooo super easy and I can't tell you how happy it makes the grandparents to get new pictures of their grandkids to carry around and hang up.

Last note and I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH!!! PPPPPPuuuhhhhLEASE... back up your pictures!  That means your iPhone, your digital camera, and your memory cards.  I know heartbreaking stories of people who lost all the baby pictures they took when their iPhone crashed, someone who lost a camera that had 6 months worth of photos on the memory card, and another person who lost the memory card itself (those things are so tiny!).  Take a minute RIGHT NOW AND GO DO IT.  And don't tell me you don't have time, you have time for Facebook and you're reading my dang blog right now!  So get off here (come back later though, ok?) and go back up your pictures.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

RAOK #32 - Pizza for Patriots

I usually try to come up with some clever post title to entice you to come read my blog.  Today, I didn't have to because the blog post name is the company name!

While scanning the www for ideas for my RAOK mission, I ran across a company called Pizzas for Patriots.  I think everyone agrees that those in the military are our heroes as they make sacrifices daily that the rest of us really don't.  If they are deployed, many times they are barely afforded any basic comforts like sleeping in a delightful Tempur-pedic bed (every single night when I nestle in my bed under the covers I groan and say "I love my bed, I love my bed, I love my bed."  I am always so happy to see it!).   They may not get hot showers, they may be in miserably hot or cold conditions.... we all know the drill and we think about it and are thankful for all they do for our country.

What I never thought about though was how lonely it must get for them longing for the familiar comforts of home. . .  like pizza.

I'm not a pizza nut like my kids are, but if I haven't had a piece in a few weeks, I'll start wanting one.  Some of these guys and gals haven't had a real piece of pizza in MONTHS. . . and there are plenty of other foods that they enjoy at home that they are not getting in Iraq and Afghanistan for sure!

Pizza for Patriots is run by a retired military man and his wife.  They work with several pizza providers and arranged for DHL to tranport these pizzas to deployment areas like Afghanistan.  What a super great idea!!  I'm not sure how the pizza tastes after it goes from here to there, but I myself always like pizza better the second day anyway and I bet those guys don't care!!

You can make an online donation for any amount to help provide pizza for patriots, which I did for RAOK #32.  Someone somewhere far away will be enjoying a piece of pizza with my name on it (figuratively of course)!  And the next time I eat pizza, I will remember to pray for the guy/gal who ate my pizza and say a thank you for them and the sacrifices they have made!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

RAOK #31 - Rx for Wellness

In a lot of ways, I think I'm a pretty good mom.  But I think all parents are plagued about the things we know we need to do better.  Hopefully we take steps to fix those areas that need improvement.

One of the ways that I have been less-than-successful is when it comes to taking medicine or administering it.  I really want to be on top of that kid needing the antibiotic three. friggin'. times. a. day. for one thousand years  fourteen days. But for some reason I am not as good as I need to be about it.  My mom says that I legitimately have too much going on to remember everything (which is why my family calendar is online, color-coded, updated daily, and looked at about 10 times a day).  I'm obsessed with my calendar, and I don't forget or miss much when it comes to things we need to do or places we need to be.  The Rx, however, is a different matter.

A few months ago, in the throes of winter and all six of us taking turns getting sick for weeks on end, the lightbulb finally went on and I developed a chart for the refrigerator.  We all get into the fridge multiple times a day and it is hard not to notice the 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper staring me in the face.  I have finally developed something that makes me more successful in this area, and also eliminates confusion between me and the hubs when we are both doing the medicine man routine.

In my birthday post, I mentioned the preschooler was home sick the whole week.  I ran out the chart and posted it, but then realized I can't be the only one who stinks at this, right?  (Right??)  So I developed a generic chart for all you peeps who take meds and forget them or are parents who are struggling with it.  RAOK #31 was done the week of my birthday but I'm just getting around to posting it.

Here is a sample of the completed chart:

 Note there is room to write the day and date, and three sections for meds: 2x daily meds, 3x daily meds, and the pesky "alternate Tylenol and Motrin every three hours for a fever" section that EVERY parent surely needs!  Who can remember at 2am whether the last time out of 20 you gave Tylenol or Motrin?   This chart helps you track the time and the type so you never have to guess again or scramble for a piece of scrap paper to write it.  You wouldn't want to accidentally write it on the letter stating you won $5 million in the Publisher's Clearing House, now would you??

Here is the printable version.  If you can't get it to work properly, email me at justina {at} soarr dot com (it is spelled out so spam crawlers cannot grab my email and start sending me junk.  If you use it, type it in the way you normally would with the asterick and period etc.To your good health (and your kids'!!)

Friday, March 23, 2012

RAOK #30 - College cutie care

This cute guy is not my son.  But I sort of feel like he's my son.  Because he's the son of one of my BFFs and his sister is one of my daughter's BFFs.  Confused much yet?

Jr. is one of those teenagers to whom I was referring in one of my earlier posts (here).  He's one of those young men that restores your faith in the future.  Not only is he totally nice but he's a responsible student, good citizen, and a Christian who lives out the faith.  He was co-valedictorian of his graduating class last year.  If you ask him who his best friend is, he will tell you without shame that his best friend is his dad.

The last two years, he was my life-saver. Every morning my daughter had to be transported to her private school a few miles down the road.  When the hubs traveled, that meant that I had to wake up the littlest one and drag her out to the car just to get the oldest to school.  It was a huge hassle and usually didn't result in a good start to the morning, especially if I had to take a warm delicious sleeping baby out of her warm delicious comfy bed and carry her out into a snow storm.  Not fun!

So for the days the hubs was gone, I started asking Jr. if he would swing a little out of his way to get my daughter.  He always did it willingly without complaint.  One time, the wires got crossed and he and his sister ended up at the school without my daughter.  He took an unexcused tardy and came back and got her because he's that responsible and didn't want to leave me hanging.  He even bailed us out as recently as his spring break from college a few weeks ago when our car was acting funny and he followed his dad and my daughter back to our house to make sure our new driver was safely home.

Jr. went off to college last fall to pharmacy school.  I'd been thinking about a way to thank him for all he did for me the last two years and I thought a little college care package might just do the trick (RAOK #30).  I remember being in college and looking forward to the letters and care packages from home, it always made me so happy! 

I started by grabbing all the good things I knew he'd love - Oreos, Little Debbie's, Red Bull . . . you know, the staples of a freshman's diet.  Then I brainstormed for other ideas and realized "What am I thinking?  BOYS want food... not magazines and trinkets!"  This stash should last him and his friends... what?.. about a good two days right?

Thanks, Jr., for all you did and I hope you are loving college.

Also, can't end the post without a shout out to his sister, Tia, who is really like one of my own kids!  She's a special young lady too and I didn't want to spark any sibling rivalry with this post... but her care package is waiting in my pantry :)

P.S.  The mom and I are taking resumes for available females for this prize of a guy, but just know the requirements for approval on dating him are more stringent than college admission!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

RAOK #29 - A T-shirt saves the world?

Several weeks ago I stumbled upon an organization called "Sevenly" (www.sevenly.com).  They have capitalized on a very simple and powerful marketing concept - they sell unique, one of a kind T-shirts and hoodies that are only available for one week.  $7 of each purchase goes towards their "cause of the week".

They haven't even been around for a year yet, but they have already raised over $300,000 for their various causes!!  I bought my first shirt several weeks ago ... then another week ... then another week.  I find I'm a bit addicted to them.  They change the cause every Monday at 1:00pm EDT and their causes are incredibly diverse.  The week I did RAOK #29, it was for a domestic violence shelter which touches me because women I am close to from more than one branch of my family have been affected by this and I also personally know some friends that have as well.  They raised $15,239 in one week for Sheltering Wings!

The shirt I bought for domestic violence.
NO, they are not!

CURE Childhood Cancer
This week's cause is for Clean Drinking Water in India.  Children are dying for lack of clean water and the money raised through this week's purchases will be used to drill three wells.

The dudes (and dudettes) at Sevenly have segregated their company's mission down into 7 major categories:  slavery, water, hunger, aid, poverty, medical and disaster.  The twist is that each cause only lasts one week and they only produce t-shirts to fulfill their orders.  Once a T is gone, it is gone.  Every shirt and hoodie is a limited edition design.  The design team is edgy and probably young, and the Tshirt and hoodie quality is dynamite. ... soft, very high quality, and wash well.  This is not your scratchy buy-for-$5-at-discount-store-and-slap-a-logo-on-it kind of shirt!

I highly encourage you to check out www.sevenly.com.  When you get your goods in the mail, their packaging says "WHOA DANG.  Look at you changin' the world and stuff"


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

RAOK #28 - Rock 'n' Roll

There are some defining moments in everyone's life when you know that things are never going to be the same again.  The end of high school, your first love, marriage, children, deaths of family and friends.. . .

And your oldest teenager (your first baby) getting her driver's license and backing out of the driveway without you for the first time.

This momentous occasion happened to me just two short weeks ago. . . right in the same time frame as the depressing diagnosis about my knee pain AND the birthday that threw me closer to 50 than 40.  My mortality has hit me square in the face....

I'm going to go eat some chocolate and I'll get back with you in just a second.

OK, I'm back.  Thank God for Girl Scout Thin Mints, the non-prescription anti-depressant for aging women everywhere.  Hmm, I think I'm onto a marketing strategy here.  I need to contact Girl Scouts USA immediately so they can capitalize on my brilliance.

Anyway, I have to confess that I have not been near as worried or upset about my daughter driving as I ought to be.  This is primarily because almost every single weekday since August 21, I have spent at least 2 1/2 hours in my car - every. stinking. day.  It's a long boring story but our children are not all in the same schools, they have a variety of extracurriculars, youth group, and the annoying "I have a __________ due tomorrow" phenomenon that occurs in American households on a weekly basis. 

Tip for you parents of younger kids?  STOCK UP on posterboard and cake mixes/frosting the next time you see a sale and store it in your house anywhere you can.  I promise, you will thank me at 9pm some night!! And if you don't have eggs? You can substitute 1.5 cups of carbonated beverage for the eggs and oil and still come out with a decent cupcake.  Yeah . . .been there, done that.

My faith in God and the fact that my daughter is an honor student, responsible, and conscientious has a lot to do with my alarming lack of worry.  She really has become a good little driver.  But a lot of it is also due to the fact that I FINALLY HAVE MY LIFE BACK.  (Well, a little bit).  When she pulled out of the driveway to pick up the siblings, the sense of freedom I felt from the prison I call a car was absolutely exhilarating.

Being that I am not a totally bad mom, that brings me to RAOK # 28 - Rock 'n' Roll.  My kids are typical teenagers in the fact that they love to listen to music.  They actually have pretty broad tastes ranging from Christian, pop, and country.  The one thing I noticed about my daughter is that she will change the station when she doesn't like what is on.  What teenager doesn't do this?  My concern, however, is that moment of looking down.  As a new driver, I don't want her doing it!  So, I went through iTunes and created a playlist for the teens that I knew they would love and I burned a CD for them.  This keeps them happy with music, and it keeps Mama happy knowing that she won't be running off the road trying to change the radio station.  The kids were very excited about their CD!

It's also a little RAOK for all you locals on the road! :)

P.S. I can't end the "Rock 'n' Roll" post without putting a picture of me and Jon Bon Jovi on here.  Front row seats last year for my birthday.  AMAZING!!

Yes, I took this with my camera!

RAOK #27 - Knight-in-Training

If you have followed my blog from the beginning, it is pretty clear how much I adore my daughters.  I adore the son too but I haven't talked much about him yet, so in the never-ending and pointless quest of every parent to always appear "fair", I wanted to do a RAOK that would be special for him.

First of all, the son is a handsome charmer.  He can tell a story and has never met a stranger.  He's only 14 and is already 6'0" and 210 and obviously as a boy, he's not done growing.  I remember the day I noticed he was eye-level to me. I'd been watching for it to happen and it did, the last day of school 2 years ago.  Since then he has shot up almost 11 inches!  Amazing process, this adolescence thing.  Expensive too - I can't keep the boy in pants that fit!!

Thus far we have found that raising a boy in today's cultural climate is not easy.  Training a boy to be a man in a society that constantly undermines men is tough.  For example, you can hardly watch a TV program without the dad/husband/main male character being portrayed as a fumbling buffoon. 

This is probably not going to win me any points with whatever feminist readers I have, but I believe that the traditional roles work better than this mixed up "anything goes" point of view that our society seems to embrace.  I am not saying that women should not be afforded opportunities or fair pay. If you know me, you would know that it would be totally hypocritical of me to say after being in a successful career for years.

The point is, though, our young men need to be trained and empowered to be leaders of society, of community, and of family.  I believe that the traditional roles of men should be honored and men should be supported in what they do, not belittled.  Young men need to be taught the right way to be men, to be protectors, to be honorable, and to stand up for what is right. . .

So for RAOK #27, I designed a poster and ordered it for his room.  Our son loves history. He loves medieval legends, tales of dragons, King Arthur, the knights, and Civil War stories. He and his dad adore weapons and warfare history of all kinds - swords, daggers, and guns (Don't freak out now. We don't have a mini Waco compound here. However, do know if you break into our home, we are well prepared!!) I did some research on the "Knight's Code" and developed a good list of character qualities from it that we are trying to instill and that I would love my son to possess as a man.  The poster also has a really cool picture of a bad-boy Knight on it that he will love.  We'll frame it and put it in his room over his bed and I know he will read it over and over. 

Hopefully, this and our training will sink in and we'll have ourselves a real live Knight one of these days!!  Young ladies, watch out ;)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

RAOK #26 - MoNsTeR

Monster Energy Drink - legal speed for teenagers everywhere and breakfast for exhausted and overworked moms across the nation! Actually, I prefer coffee in the morning and Sugar Free Red Bull for my afternoon energy boost, but that's just me.

What does it say about our society that we are all so tired you can buy legal amphetamines in a bottle at every grocery store, gas station, and superstore?  Wikipedia says 90% of North Americans consume caffeine daily.  I'm sure there is some deeper meaning to ponder. . .  but I'm just too tired.

Some lucky dog got their Monster fix for free after my RAOK #26.  At this particular venue, the Monsters run $1.78, so I taped $2 and a card onto the fridge.  It wouldn't be a complete RAOK without tax included, now would it??

Hopefully they took all that extra energy and did something nice for someone else.  One can always hope. . .

Monday, March 19, 2012

Love your neighbor...

RAOK #25 - Crafty goodness! Lucky day!

I'm back!  After a short hiatus for my birthday weekend, I am ready to get on with the business of sharing all of my fun RAOK that wrapped up my mission.  If you didn't see my earlier post, I did complete the 46 RAOKs by my birthday weekend as planned. (Yea!!)  However, I didn't have time to raise 4 children, do the RAOKs and write about them.  So I chose to raise the kids and get the RAOKs done and then write about them afterwards.  You will see the remaining 21 posts coming up here in the next few weeks.

My birthday weekend started out with Craft Club.  I moved here 4 years ago and knew no one. I figured out quickly that I was going to have to design opportunities to meet people so one thing I did was join a Moms' Group and offer to host a Craft Club. If you know me or read my profile, you know I absolutely love crafting and especially scrapbooking.  

It has become a monthly tradition that is one of my favorite things I do all month.  About one Friday night a month I gather up friends and we have A BLAST!  We share all our personal stories and we laugh so hard every time.  The hubs told me he's jealous and wants a Dad Group (his would be a Gun Club versus a Craft Club though) because he can hear us howling downstairs and having so much fun!

I scheduled the March Craft Club for the Friday before my birthday because we go until midnight (or after) and I knew that would ring in my birthday on a fun note.  The gals surprised me with a sweet card, a cake, and some delicious frozen custard from a local shop around here.  Yum!!  I surprised them with a RAOK - Is today your lucky day?

I gave them each a $2 scratch off lottery ticket.  Now, I personally don't play the lottery and hardly any of them do either.  The odds of winning the lottery are less than getting struck by lightning so I prefer just to keep my money.  Although my dad plays and he won $17,000 once on the Hoosier Millionaire show! But it is fun to scratch off the ticket and see if you won something.  Especially if someone else paid for the ticket!  It was great.  Did we have a winner?

Yep!  Congratulations to Julie, who won $20!  Woot woot!! I love Julie, she's just an awesome person, amazing mom, and so fun!

Here's the printable I made up to attach to the lottery tickets:

(By the way, in case of some of you astute readers are wondering, NO I am not writing and have never from the beginning written about my RAOKs in chronological order of when they were done for a number of reasons that are too boring to mention. It doesn't really matter, does it?)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

It's my birthday! Did I do it????

The mission was to complete 46 Random Acts of Kindness by my 46th birthday weekend.

Did I do it?


I know a lot of you have been worried this last week as the posts slowed down to two a day and wondering if I was just totally going to blow off my goal.  If you know me at ALL, you know that doesn't sound anything like me ;)  Have a little faith . .

Since I only had 12 days to do 46 things, I have been scrambling!!  I realized a few days into it that I could either do all the RAOKS or I could write about what I was getting done, but not both and still hit the goal.  The blog writing and picture posting sometimes takes longer than actually doing the acts themselves.  (One of my friends told me "But the blog is actually a RAOK in and of itself".  Thanks!)  Also, I got thrown a curveball with a sick preschooler for 4 days this week and barely left the house until today!  So I had to "punt".  Some things I had planned had to be scratched and I had to do other things instead.

I also had a few people tell me that the posts were going up so fast that they could hardly keep up with all the reading and they wanted more time to reflect on what I was writing.

So I made a decision to focus on getting the 46 done and write 2 posts a day.  You have read up to RAOK # 24 at this point, but I have actually been way ahead of you since the very beginning.  As of right now I am done with 44 RAOKs and the other 2 are ready to go and just have to be executed today. 

Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks as I report on what the other 22 RAOKs are, I think you'll really like some of them!!  Thanks again for your support!

Friday, March 16, 2012

RAOK# 24 - Call me, call me any, anytime...

I like Facebook.  A lot.  I don't spend much time on there anymore but what I like about it is that I can see what is going on with a friend or a family member with a click of a button.  People that were friends of mine from 20 or 30 years ago are on there and now I know what is going on with them.

"Back in my day" people lost track of each other pretty quickly.  The generation coming up will have a totally different experience after they leave high school than we did.  They may not actually talk to their friends from high school but they will know what has happened to them. . . where they went to college, what stupid things they did there (thanks to the pictures), marriage, babies, etc.

The downside to all this great technology is that we've lost touch in a totally different way.  I can keep up with old friends but never let them know that I care about what's going on in their lives.  I can pop off an email pretty quickly but I'm not going to find out how someone's day was.  I can read a "Tweet" but it doesn't tell me their real story.  For a country where we know everyone's business . . . we are sadly out of touch.

RAOK# 24 was to pick up the phone and call an old friend I haven't talked to in awhile.  I chose my friends Steve and Cindy.  I met them in January 1990 at the Poconos in Pennsylvania.  It was a random meeting where we were sitting at one table for dinner and they were sitting at another.  Somehow we started talking over the tables to lament how awful the resort was.  They had been married the day before and flown in for their honeymoon.  She had spent the night crying about how nasty her room was and spraying Lysol all over the place.  The day before we had complained to the front desk about how nasty our room was and received an upgrade to a better room.  A friendship was born.

We spent the week together and our lives were changed forever.  For the last 22 years we have stayed in touch (before Facebook!).  They live in the New Orleans area and I've visited them many times; ridden on their Mardi Gras float; enjoyed their crawfish boil; become friends with their family (shout out to Mr. Lloyd and Miss Irma and Miss Maggie!) and had the pleasure to watch their family grow by two great kids.

It's been awhile since we have talked so I picked. up. the. phone. and called them.  I ended up talking to Steve for about 40 minutes.  That's when I made a real live human connection.  We talked about all the personal family stuff that you don't put on Facebook, the updates on their family members I know from all my trips, how the kids are doing in school, and their dry-cleaning business.  It's all the good real stuff that you really want to know about someone you love.

Phone?  When it comes to making real connections, Facebook has nothing on you!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

RAOK# 23 - A Little Movie Lovin'

Ah, movies.  There's nothing like a 2 hour break from real life to be inspired, scared, thrilled, sad, or completely amused to the point of gut-splitting laughter. And buttered popcorn, in my opinion, should be considered its own food group with a Recommended Daily Allowance.  Seriously.  Sometimes the hubs will drop the kids off at the theatre, GO INSIDE, and pay $8 to buy me one of those big buttery buckets!

One thing that I have always wondered is how in the world you are supposed to pick your "Favorite Movie"?  I mean, really!  Out of the tens of thousands of movies ever produced in the history of cinematography you are actually supposed to narrow it down to ONE?  Yes, please pick between Gone with the Wind, It's a Wonderful Life, Star Wars (any of them), E.T., Sound of Music, Indiana Jones, Top Gun, Forrest Gump, Lethal Weapon, Good Will Hunting, The Sixth Sense, any of the Bourne movies, The Matrix, and Rocky (Have fond memories of me and my sis sitting on the couch one weekend when we were young adults and our parents were out town.  We watched ALL four of the Rocky movies in a row that were out at the time.  A Rocky Marathon!  We found a lot of discrepancies. Good times, good times.). 

This is not to mention any number of well-written rom-coms like Dirty Dancing, When Harry Met Sally, Miss Congeniality, and Legally Blonde; and the entire suite of Disney movies!  I'm sure I'm forgetting ANY NUMBER of great movies on my own favorites list but there are so many I have seen multiple times that I can't even name them all.

The biggest bummer about movie watching is when you pay big bucks at the theatre and the movie is a total disappointment.  Yep, there's two hours of my life I'll never get back and $25 (remember, movie popcorn.  $8 a bucket).  Even when you buy a $5 movie in the clearance bin or rent a movie you still get annoyed if the movie stinks.

RAOK #23 is a little kindness at the Red Box!  Now, I must sheepishly admit that I personally have never even tried Red Box.  One reason is because we are lame.  Apparently Red Box charges for every day you don't return the movie so for us, we might end up spending that $25 anyway on the rental.  Also, we have Netflix and cable with On Demand movies.  If we like a movie well enough, we'll buy it and add it to our vast enormous collection of movies.  And let's just all agree right now . . . no one buys whatever comes out AFTER Blue-Ray! I'm tired of having to replace my movie collection every time new technology pops up!

So here is a little "movie love" for some stranger getting ready to rent a movie at the Red Box.  If it turns out to be a cruddy movie, at least they didn't waste their money .. . .just their time!

P.S. Some random dude and his girl saw me photographing the money/RAOK card and said "Did you just see that on there or are you the one who put it up there?"  I told him what I was doing and he was SO excited.  Said that it went along with his life philosophy of "paying it forward'.  I told him about the blog and gave him my web address.  Random dude, if you are reading this, thanks for the encouragement! It's people like you that have made my mission fun!

P.S.S.  Have you ever noticed that it is fine for a play to have a sad or totally tragic ending and we accept that, but if a movie does then we leave all mad because the ending didn't resolve well?  Why is that?

P.S.S.S. Did I miss one of your favorite movies?  Write it in the comments below (you can post as "anonymous" if you are not a google user, just leave your name if you want me to know who you are!)

RAOK #22 - Pennies From Heaven

This was a fun one!  It started out as a RAOK and turned in to a picnic for my family.  When I told the kids what I was doing, a couple of them wanted to come along . . . then one of the daughters thought we could pack a picnic with some leftover chicken we had.  Then, the hubby got in on the action and wanted to come too.  It was a gorgeous day here and it was great to go out and get some fresh air and sunshine!

Little kids love pennies!  Remember the excitement when you were little and you found a penny on the ground?  That was before you knew that quarters were even better, right? ;)

RAOK #21 was putting a big handful of pennies all over this playground for the kids to find this week.  I wish I could be there to see their excitement!!

I must insert an annoying "mom" disclaimer at this point, because, well you know, I'm a mom!  I put my pennies on a school playground, which means the kids would be K-6th grade.  If you want to do this RAOK, please don't put pennies on the part of the playground for toddlers, who would love to pick up a shiny penny and eat it! 

Part of my fam, enjoying a picnic in the beautiful weather!

We left pennies all over the place!  In nooks and crannies, on the ground, and in the slides!

The hubs and the girls.  He's the perfect blend of the ultimate male and a big kid at heart!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

RAOK #21 - Do NOT Pinch Me

As you know if you have been reading my blog at all, my birthday is on March 17, which is also St. Patrick's Day.  Having a birthday on a "minor holiday" is sort of cool.  I know someone whose son was born on Christmas.  I would not like to have my birthday on a major holiday like that one.  I hope that kid is at least getting double presents every year! 

Here are some funny things about having a birthday on St. Patrick's day:

~ You will very likely at some point in your life be asked (about 4 dozen times) why you are not named Patricia (or Patrick).  Because I was due in FEBRUARY and my mom didn't know I was going to be born on March 17.  And she already had my name picked out and she wanted to name me "Justina" not Patricia.

~ People will ask you if St. Patrick's Day is on the same date every year. (Well.. duh.  If my birthday is always on St. Patrick's Day, does my actual birth DATE change every year?  No.  This is not like Easter and Thanksgiving where you have to spend 5 minutes trying to find a calendar with U.S. holidays on it to see upon which day it falls.)

~ You will probably get a green cake for your birthday every year until you are about 10 or 11 years old and BEG your family to get you a pink cake for once!

~ People LOVE to buy greeting cards that combine St Patrick's Day and your birthday . . . I have no idea why.  It doesn't bother me and I probably wouldn't even mention this except for the fact that my Grandma J, whom I dearly love and have missed tremendously the last 10 years she has been gone, gave me the same birthday card design three years in a row.  I still don't know if Hallmark was too lazy to come up with a new design and that's what Grandma J had to pick from for 3 years running or if she stocked up one year and figured I wouldn't remember.  It read:                         
"A birthday on St. Patrick's Day means lucky, lucky you".

~ When you have received a birthday card for three years that reads "A birthday on St. Patrick's Day means lucky lucky you", it is best not to tell your children.  Because every single year on your stinkin' birthday they will look at you lovingly and repeat that phrase for the entire week preceding your birthday.  "Mom, your birthday is in 3 days.  And a birthday on St. Patrick's day means lucky lucky you!"

~ Also, one year for your adult birthday your family will present you with a beautiful green cake.  You will say "thank you" and mean it, but wonder how in the heck they missed the story that you've told umpteen times (at their request) about getting a green cake for your birthday all the time when you were a kid.  Then all four of your kids will start ROLLING on the floor laughing at how clever they are and then bring out your REAL cake, which is not green, but is a delicious 6 layer "Dream" cake from the local bakery.  Good one, guys!

~ You always know you have to wear green on your birthday.  Every year. Or you will get pinched.  On your birthday.

This brings me to my point.  One thing that I have never loved about St. Patrick's day is this moronic tradition of pinching people if they are not wearing green.  St. Patrick was a saint who legend says performed miracles, baptized thousands of people, and converted people to Christ.  The reason why the shamrock is linked to St. Patrick's Day is because Patrick used the 3 leaves of the shamrock to explain the Christian Trinity - a triune God that is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in one. (If what I just said is Gaelic to you, call or email me.  I'd love to explain.)

What in the world does any of that have to do with pinching?  (Or green beer for that matter.)

I probably wouldn't mind too much except I have to wear green on my birthday every year because of some ridiculous tradition, and more importantly, some people pinch HARD.  I mean, I've seen people grab flesh and twist and gouge until the other person's arm is really red and you know that hurts.  I really don't find it funny much. 

So, this year I am borrowing a printable from another website I read and creating these cute PINCH PROOF buttons.  The blog writer goes to all this trouble to hot glue little pins to the back, but I'm not.  I've printed them out on card stock and I'm just going to stick that thick double stick mounting tape on the back so people can put it on their clothes and then throw it away.

I'm publishing this RAOK before I have actually done it because I don't want you to get pinched!  If you don't want to wear green or don't have anything green just print one of these babies out before Saturday and have it ready to tape or safety pin to your clothes.

My RAOK will be to have a baggie full of these and pass them out to everyone I see on March 17 that is not wearing green.  Instead of getting bodily injuries, they'll get a pass this year!

I'm new to this blog thing but I don't want to be guilty of stealing anyone's thunder so go to Darling Doodles blog to download the file and enjoy not being pinched this year!!

RAOK #20 - I'm Awkward

True confession time.  When it comes to acknowledging someone who has lost someone close to them or has a serious illness like cancer, I'm awkward.  I have all these grand ideas and intentions in my head of things I want to say, write, or do.  And many times I do nothing.

It's awful.

It's not because I'm not thinking about and praying for that person (because I am) or that I don't have the heart to encourage them.  I think it is because I am afraid I am going to say the wrong thing or send something that reminds them of what they are going through.  Who am I kidding?  If someone has recently lost a loved one or has cancer or a serious illness, most of the time they're thinking about it!

Putting myself in the place of those people, I am ashamed of myself.  When they are experiencing what is likely one of the most difficult times of their life, they stop hearing from people.  I am not the only one who does this.  A lot of people do this when someone they know is going through their own personal hell.  People just shut down and get all awkward and make excuses.  Sometimes the person who is ill is acknowledged in the beginning, but as their treatment progresses and they are still in need of friendship and love, people sort of forget about them.

There are several people in my life right now who need my support.  There will be future posts on this, but for today I'm going to focus on my Uncle Les.

He's 83 years old and still as charmingly ornery as he's always been.  He's married to my Aunt Kathy who is a lot younger, but it never mattered because they go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Secretly (I've never told them this before) I always watched them and admired their marriage.  They always seem to get along well and he dotes on her in many ways. One time when I was about 20 years old I stayed at their house.  He was retired and she was still working and I watched him get up early just to make a cup of coffee for her to start off her day right (he made one for me too!).  I remember thinking that someday I wanted to be married to someone who would do all those little things for me.  Fortunately, I am. 

Uncle Les has leukemia now and is undergoing chemo.  Instead of being my usual awkward lame self, I did something about it last week.  I bought a Get Well card and I sent it with a little personal note.  I know. . . la-ti-freaking-da for me, right?  But the fact is, I did something.  Anything.   I told him I loved him and was praying for him. . . I acknowledged the tough time he is having . . . and I gave him a tangible reminder that he is important to me.   

If there is someone in your life right now who is facing a crisis, pick up the pen or the phone.  Stop procrastinating or making excuses.  They need to hear from you right now, even if it is just a measly Get Well card.

If you think about it, say a prayer for ole Uncle Les too.  Love you Uncle Les!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

You blow my mind....

If you saw my post on Saturday, you know that I started my blog last Tuesday and 5 days later I had hit 1000 page views.  I was (and still am) stunned and shocked at how receptive people have been to the whole thing!

I've been watching the stats since then and the growth has been exponential.  From Saturday to today, I just hit 2000 page views!!!  My little ole blog didn't exist 8 days ago. . .

My printables and words ("forgiveness" and "this sums it up" posts) have been pinned/repinned on Pinterest 309 times and liked an additional 50 times.  Pinterest and FB shares (from you all) have my demographics all over the WORLD!  While most of my action obviously comes from the U.S., I've had multiple pages views from United Kingdom (Joni, is that you?), Russia, Canada, India, Japan, Argentina, Germany, and one each from Mexico and Serbia.

Why am I telling you this?  Because, I want you to know how much you blow my mind.  YOU are the ones who are liking it and encouraging me.  YOU are the ones that are sharing it, telling other people about it, pinning it, emailing and FBing me.  YOU are sending me messages and notes to tell me the RAOK that you have been doing which keeps me inspired and RAOKin'.

Together, we've already changed the world.  In 8 days.  I don't even know how to count the "ripple effect" of what we have collectively done.

What started out as a way for me to quit thinking about myself and my issues and focus on other people has turned into one of the biggest, most positive and mind-blowing events of my life.  Because of YOU.

"Thank you from the bottom of my heart" is totally inadequate.  But it will have to do for now.  Let's keep RAOKin'!!

(Picture from Mary Engelbreit)

RAOK #19 - Let me out!!!!!!!

I realized many years ago that I am mildly claustrophobic.  Not enough to be on medication or go screaming from a room or anything, but enough that small spaces make me uncomfortable (Can you say MRI machine!?! Last time I went in they had to pull me out because I could feel the sides on my arms.  My MRI was performed with my arms hanging over my head out the end and a pink {happy color} wash cloth over my eyes so I could be in denial). 

As a kid I didn't understand it.  The cousins and I would be playing fort and then someone would jump on top of the blanket I was under and automatically I would claw and kick to get out from underneath it.  One time when we were growing up, my sister rolled me up in a carpet and I immediately asked her to get me out RIGHT NOW.  I felt weird and anxious but I didn't understand why.

As I got older, I began comprehending what it was.  Have you ever heard those stories about people who recreationally and intentionally go crawling through a cave?  In some places they have to lie flat on their stomach and wiggle through a space so small that not only can they not stand up, but they can't even get up on their knees!  WHO DOES THIS?  FOR FUN??  I'm typing this and I can feel a mild panic racing through my chest!!

How about that movie "Vanished" with Kiefer Sutherland and Jeff Bridges or that episode of "Monk" where the victims are buried alive in a pine box and wake up to find themselves in there?  Ahhhhhhhhhh!

What does this have to do with a RAOK?  Hang in there with me, I'm getting there.

This morning I had a meeting to attend and I didn't have time to pack my daughter's lunch.  The meeting was at her school and she caught me in the hallway and made the "fork to mouth" question mark gesture.  I told her I'd bring her lunch after my meeting was over.  The teardown (and talking) took a little longer than I thought so I raced over to Wendy's to grab lunch for her.  Lightbulb on.... wouldn't her teenage friends love a little chocolate Frosty surprise?  What a nice spontaneous RAOK that would be for me to do.  I ordered her lunch and several large Frosty's*** and asked for extra spoons.

I realized that I was already late and I needed to hurry so I decided to take the elevator up to the lunch room instead of the stairs because I had high heels on and was carrying an armful of Frosty's and lunch.  Oh yeah.... you know where this is going don't you???

The elevator at school is small.  It can comfortably fit maybe 3 large or 4 small people in it.  The ceiling is low - I can touch it with my hand and I am 5' 2".  The only time I use it is when I have too much to carry up the stairs and everytime I get in it I always think "man I'd hate to get stuck in here".

Push button.  Elevator goes up.  Sliding door opens to reveal the solid door with tiny glass window.  This is a regular door that opens except... the door won't open.   Door won't open.  Door still won't open.  Along comes dear sweet Pastor Gary looking through the tiny pane of glass (thank God for Pastor Gary on ANY day of the week but his calm and concerned countenance is probably all that kept me from a straight jacket).  "Push the button and go back down".  None of the buttons are lighting up. The sliding door won't shut, the 2nd floor door won't open, and the elevator will not move.  Pastor leaves to go get help. 

In the meantime, my body's "fight or flight" response has kicked in and figured out that we are STUCK IN THIS TINY ELEVATOR.  The rest of my irrational thought process went like this:
  • There is no way I can fit through that 2"x10" pane of glass.  (Breathe)
  • Oh my dear God, please help me get out of here!  (Breathe)
  • At least I have food and something to drink.  (Breathe)
  • How many days can I survive on a spicy chicken salad, 4 large frosty's and a diet coke?(Breathe)
  • Pastor Gary will save me, I know he will! (Breathe)
  • OK, if I have to go to the bathroom I guess I could go in the empty diet coke cup. (Yuck!) (Breathe)
  • I might just go stark raving mad in here.  GET AHOLD OF YOURSELF, this place is not THAT small.  You can actually stand up, it's not like you're in a cave or something.  WHAT IF I NEVER GET OUT OF HERE?!?
I'm proud to say that this was all done silently in the elevator and that I did not do this:

By divine intervention, my prayers were answered and all of the sudden the "1" button lit up all on its own.  The elevator went down.  The door did open on that floor and I wobbled out.

I took the stairs up and found my daughter and her friends on their way to their next period.  Between running late and the elevator fiasco I had missed the whole lunch.  The kids were looking at the Frosty's longingly and I managed to squeak out feebly, "These were for you guys but I didn't make it in time".  My daughter said "Mom, was that you stuck in the elevator?"  Yes... yes it was.

I wobbled back downstairs, dispersed the Frosty's to the office staff who really appreciated them and then headed out to the car.

I've been home for hours and my heart is still racing and I feel like there is an elephant on my chest.  But I'm sure the principal and the gals in the office really enjoyed those Frosty's!!  I think I'm going to go lie down now . . .

*** Frosty's? Frostys? Frostys'? Frosties?  Nanci, high school English teacher, are you reading this? What is the correct plural form of a Frosty since it is a proper noun? Oh, and by the way, I know my blog has hanging prepositions, incomplete sentences, split infinitives, and sentences that start with conjunctions but I want it to read conversationally.  Therefore, I am deliberately committing grammatical errors.  Yes, it does drive me nuts but I want people to "hear" me talking.  It is in no way a reflection of your teaching.  You did a good job.  I can still properly diagram a sentence.  Sorry if I am making you look bad. Are you going to make us take that Macbeth test again for the third time?)

RAOK #18 - Ta-Ta's

One of my daughters is a cheerleader.  In her school, cheerleading is serious business.  They practice about as much as the basketball team does, and they perform some pretty amazing stunts.  You might be one of those mean kids who says cheerleading really isn't a sport, but it's hard to argue with their athleticism when you see this: 

(I love my camera.  Aren't those mid-air shots cool??)

The girls have worked hard all year and will culminate their season by competing in "Cheer For A Cure" very soon.

Most of us know someone who has had breast cancer or has recovered from it.  The staggering statistics are that 1 in 8 women will get invasive breast cancer in her lifetime.  So if there are 8 women standing in a circle, statistically one of them is getting it.  This means someone you know!  Someone with parents, siblings, maybe a husband and children who would be lost without her whole and healthy!  My daughter's cheerleading squad has 12 cheerleaders.  One of these fine girls statistically will have breast cancer sometime in her life.  Sobering!!

Women in my life with breast cancer or recovered from it are a neighbor whose little 5 year old went to school with mine; my husband's stepmom; and a longtime girlfriend.  My great-grandma had it as well.  She got it in her '70s and made a full recovery (eventually dying from old age in her early 90's!).  

RAOK# 18 is sort of two-fold.  One, we are supporting Cheer For A Cure with a personal donation. Two, we are inviting you to join us in any amount if you feel led to do so.  They are taking donations until the end of this week.  If you live near us, you can drop it to us or drop it to the daughter's school.  If you are further away, let us know and we'll work something out.

Please note that the intention of my blog is not asking for handouts.  If you are touched and want to donate, then do so.  If this is not where you are in life, that's cool too!  No pressure.

Great strides have been made in the last decade but there is more work to do, more education, and more progress toward a cure! 

This sums it up...

This sums up my mission:
Saw this on Facebook under the group Quotes/Sayings.

Monday, March 12, 2012

RAOK #17 - I Let You Live Here!

My kids and I have a deal.  The hubs and I meet all their basic needs for survival, let them live here, give them lots of love and training, and grant a good majority of their wants too.  In return, they clean my kitchen every day after dinner for free.

All right, that's not entirely true.  I have a deal and they live with it.

The kitchen chore arrangement is not without its bumps.  Seems like sometimes I'm riding the youths like rented mules to get it done.  I even put together a checklist chart, had it laminated at Staples, and attached a dry erase marker to it.

Anyway, the end of last week was a bit hectic and stressful for everyone.  One daughter had Fine Arts Competition and was gone from dawn til after dusk for two days;  another daughter had all kinds of tests and homework for Honors Biology and Algebra II; the son had some homework and reading to do. (Don't these teachers know that my kitchen does not receive the proper attention it needs when they are trying to educate my children and prepare them for higher learning?); I was running around trying to do all my RAOKs; and the husband was gone out of town.

So my RAOK was to let the kids off the hook for 2 nights from kitchen jobs with the promise that I would do all their chores for them.  This is a big deal when you have 4 kids that make snacks after school, eat dinner, and in general pick up after themselves like teenagers. (That means... they don't.)  Plus two dogs.

Now, if you decide to do this type of RAOK for your children, make sure that your husband and daughter don't collude and then accidentally forget to tell you that your friends Todd and Travis are coming over to pick something up.  Or, your friends Todd & Travis will end up coming over BEFORE you can complete your RAOK and you will look like the worst. housekeeper. EVER.  You don't want your friends Todd and Travis to see your kitchen and dining room looking like something out of one of the episodes of Hoarders (the TV series on A&E), now do you?

Oh.  What?  This doesn't apply to you?  Todd & Travis aren't coming to your house, just mine?  Great.

No, this is not my real kitchen!  It wasn't THAT bad!!!! I'd light a match to it before I'd let it look like this.  This is a photo from Hoarders, the TV series that airs on Monday nights and shows you unimaginable ways that people live!

I'm hoping that my friends have been over here enough to know that I try to pride myself on keeping our home neat and that my kitchen is usually not something out of a TV series about mentally ill people.  Hopefully the boys will read the blog and accept my sincerest apologies!!

Anyway, I did get the mission accomplished and here is my kitchen after all my hard work to do a RAOK for my kids, just the way I like it to look:

RAOK #16 - Bring on the Bash!!

One of my BFFs had some friends over for a little dinner bash to celebrate her upcoming birthday.  It was a potluck** and I brought ice cream, but I also wanted to do a little RAOK for her and step it up a notch.  To help add to the festivities, I created these for our drinks:

I already had the jars and lids.  You can get this kind of jar pretty much anywhere (grocery store, Walmart, Target etc) usually in the canning section.   I love these because they have a quilt pattern on them and they are 12 oz jars with room for ice in it - which means you can pour a whole can of pop in there at one time (or soda, or coke, or whatever it is you call it in your neck of the woods!)

I purchased the lids awhile ago from a shop called We Love Citrus (click here for link).  They are not cheap but they are very well made and I looked at it as an investment because I use these for a lot of things.  If you have an awl and a hammer, you could probably just pound a straw-sized hole in the original lids if you don't want to spend any more $$. 

I love drinking out of a straw.  Here's a random piece of info for you ~ my old dentist once told me that if you drink carbonated or sugary drinks out of a straw, you do less damage to your teeth!

Here was my original inspiration from a blog I read:

From I Heart Naptime.  She's been doing this longer and her pics are way pretty!!
 I created the Happy Birthday printable, printed it out on photo paper and then cut it into strips.  I just rolled up regular tape to put it on there, that way when we were done I could just pull them off and throw them in the dishwasher.

We had a great evening and I think the ladies enjoyed my little RAOK. Happy Birthday friend!!!

** Can we please have a discussion about why it is called a "potluck" where I live now?  How does a pot (toilet?) and luck have anything to do with food? (Like, if you eat out of my pot you'll be lucky if you don't get sick??)   Where I come from we always called it a "pitch in".  You know, you pitch in some food.  But whenever I use that terminology here, I always get a blank look.  People absolutely have no idea to what I am referring!  So I call it potluck now, but I don't get it.